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Posted on Jun 25th 2016 at 12:00:00 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Sega Genesis, Arcade, data east, renovation

[img width=400 height=552]http://www.rfgeneration.com/images/games/U-040/ms/U-040-S-06550-A.jpg[/img]

Vapor Trail is a vertically scrolling shooter originally developed by Data East for the arcade in 1989. Kuuga: Operation Code "Vapor Trail" is the game's full Japanese name, with the title being changed to Vapor Trail: Hyper Offense Formation overseas. Telenet Japan secured the rights to port the game to Sega's Mega Drive, publishing through its RiOT label for release in 1991. At the time, Telenet also had a North American subsidiary named Renovation Products, who handled the overseas Genesis release in the same year.

This original game spawned an arcade trilogy from Data East. The second game in the Kuuga series is Wolf Fang: Kuuga 2001, and the third is Skull Fang: Kuuga Gaiden. Both of these sequels were ported to the followup of the Genesis, the Saturn. Wolf Fang expanded to Sony's PlayStation, and even took a modern leap to the PlayStation Network, for a PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable release. Wolf Fang switched genre completely when it changed into a run and gun and platforming hybrid; however, Skull Fang returned to the scrolling shooter mechanics of the original.

Vapor Trail has all the out of game features that an arcade fan and modern collector love in home console ports. There are two difficulty selections, Easy and Hard. Easy gives you three hits per life, while Hard starts the player at two. You can pick up pieces of health at set points in stages to replenish those precious bars. The player also has two options for lives per continue, three or five. There's also a sound test and control customization.

When you first play Vapor Trail, you will notice that you have the ability to select between three different fighter jets. You can have a balanced flight as the pilot of the XF/AV-01 SYLPH. Perhaps you would enjoy flying the slow, but powerful air fortress XAV-02 VALKYRIE. Or, if you want to be the fastest, but weakest fighter plane, then consider the XFV-03 SEYLEN. The progression of power ups is preset, so keen pilots can get all the nice pickups and stay powerful. This progression is much like Astro Warrior, a shooter that was present a few years before Data East put Vapor Trail in the arcade.

Critics have noted Vapor Trail's difficulty. The later of the six missions do make this criticism true. However, there are more than enough options to give the player plenty of room for practice runs, which will become clears. Practice makes perfect. The realistic setting and visuals have been criticized as being unoriginal, but there is a nice amount of detail for a game of its era. There is a hint of science fiction thrown into the story and a modern, Earth military setting. The console port is also technically solid, so the game can be enjoyed with minimal slowdown.

Vapor Trail is a competent shooter, but it does not reach the upper tier of arcade shooter action for the Genesis. Its current price point of around $35 for a loose copy or $80 complete, make this a hard game to recommend since there are so many great shooters for a smaller price. The soundtrack is the game's high note, but there is a bad side; there is only one level theme, so audio fatigue can set in after only one playthrough. This is a game that only hardcore Genesis collectors or fans of the arcade game should actively pursue. Those going for the Renovation set at least have a good shooter to eyeball.

[img width=320 height=224]https://i.imgur.com/2ypVMoJ.jpeg[/img]

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From the cover I always just figured it was a flight sim game, but now that I know more I'll be on the watch for it. Nice writeup.
@Duke.Togo: I knew nothing about it when i first got it in my lot. Its still in my shooter rotation despite the weaknesses.
Good article.  I picked this game up some 15 years ago, and it's one I pull out every so often to remind myself why I don't play it regularly - it's just sort of "meh".  As you say, it's competent, but other than the "super lock on" power-up scenario with the dock that makes you briefly very powerful, nothing else stands out, aside from the low bitrate sample "I can't hold it!" when you take a hit and your plane explodes.  That, and the similarly low bitrate "Vapor Trail!" you hear at the title screen.  I would agree that $35 for a loose copy is a tough pill to swallow, even for shmup die-hards like me.  I'm glad I picked it up around the $5 price tag all those years ago, because I would be sorely disappointed if I put down that kind of money these days.

Incidentally, I didn't realize that Skull Fang was the 3rd in a series.  It's widely considered to be one of the worst shoot-em-ups on the Saturn.  Competent, but ultimately flawed and uninteresting, from what I've read.  I'd still like to track down a copy, being the shmup aficionado that I am, but I'm sure my time (and money) would be better spent tracking down other shmups on Sega's big black box.

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